Monroe Station, near Big Cypress National Preserve in Ochopee, burned down over the weekend. The outpost was part of the Tamiami Trail, a 275-mile stretch that connects Miami to Tampa.
Of the six original outposts constructed in the 1920s, Monroe Station and Royal Palm Hammock were the only two still standing. The latter is an active gas station selling shrimp, sweet tea, and firewood near Collier-Seminole State Park in Naples.
Bob DeGross, a spokesperson for Big Cypress National Preserve, told News Press the fire began around 11 p.m. Saturday. "I don't have many details other than that."
Before the fire consumed it, the station was set to be restored. In an earlier interview with the publication, DeGross said groups had raised about $300,000 from a federal highway grant, although more monies would have been needed. "We want to stabilize and restore it, but it's in great disrepair and about the only remaining original [portion] that can be reused is the roof."
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The outpost was developed by Barron Gift Collier, an advertising entrepreneur and one of the largest landowners in Florida. He built six stations along the trail, each within ten miles of the next, in the late 1920s. By 1934, Collier had sold the stations. One was moved to Everglades City and converted into a house, DeGross said. And aside from Monroe Station and Royal Palm Hammock, the other three were demolished.
"This road, and the stations connected with it, brought great change and opened up the state. The Tamiami Trail changed Florida forever," DeGross told News Press. "It is a terrible loss."
Woody Hanson, a Fort Myers historian and grandson of Tamiami trailblazer W. Stanley Hanson, lamented after the fire to News Press: "Florida [and] her folklore and legacy assets continue to slip away [as] an outpost on a former Florida frontier vanishes, along with the Florida myth."